Barrett Strong
Barrett Strong | Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Motown Legend Barrett Strong Dies Aged 81

Barrett Strong, the titan songwriter of the Motown era, has died aged 81. The Detroit artist’s credits include ‘War’ and ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. Strong also sang on the Tamla label’s first big hit, ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, released in 1959. Strong passed away on Sunday, 29th January. No cause of death has yet been given.

Strong was born in 1941 in Mississippi but raised in Detroit, Michigan. He began his music career playing piano for his four sisters in their group, The Strong Sisters. While touring the church circuit, Strong met and befriended future soul stars Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.

Barrett Strong – ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’

Strong was just 18 when he signed to Berry Gordy Jr.’s Motown Records, which was originally named Tamla Records. Within a year, Strong had his first and only hit as a solo artist with ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’, which propelled the Motown sound into the pop consciousness.

In the mid-1960s, Strong teamed up with Motown producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield. This fruitful creative partnership produced some of the label’s greatest hits, including ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ for Gladys Knight & The Pips and ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’ for The Temptations. The pair received a Grammy in 1973 for ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’ and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004.

Strong left Motown in the 1970s to pursue a career as a performer and released four albums, most recently 2008’s Stronghold II. In a 2019 interview with Detroit Free Press, Strong reflected on his career. “I feel good about it,” he said. “I did something. I did my part, what I was put on this earth to do. I made people smile. I made people have babies. I made people do a lot of things. So I contributed something to my being here.”

Further Reading

Harlem Festival Of Culture Announced, Inspired By Questlove’s ‘Summer Of Soul’

Anita Pointer of The Pointer Sisters Dead at the Age of 74

Fred White, Earth, Wind and Fire Drummer, Has Died at 67

Must Read